Here we are, 90 days into the automatic spending cuts known as sequester and the doom and gloom predictions by the Obama administration have utterly failed to come to pass.
The Washington Post reluctantly admits it:
Before "sequestration" took effect, the Obama administration issued specific -- and alarming -- predictions about what it would bring. There would be one-hour waits at airport security. Four-hour waits at border crossings. Prison guards would be furloughed for 12 days. FBI agents, up to 14.
At the Pentagon, the military health program would be unable to pay its bills for service members. The mayhem would extend even into the pantries of the neediest Americans: Around the country, 600,000 low-income women and children would be denied federal food aid.
But none of those things happened.
Sequestration did hit, on March 1. And since then, the $85 billion budget cut has caused real reductions in many federal programs that people depend on. But it has not produced what the Obama administration predicted: widespread breakdowns in crucial government services.
The Washington Post recently checked 48 of those dire predictions about sequestration's impact. Just 11 have come true, and some effects are worse than forecast. But 24 predictions have not come to pass. In 13 cases, agencies said it is too soon to know.
So many predictions fell short because, in recent months, the administration and Congress did what was supposed to be impossible: They undid many of sequestration's scariest reductions. In the process, this supposedly ironclad budget cut -- ostensibly immune to political maneuvering -- became a symbol of the reality that nothing in Washington is beyond politics.
In some cases, politicians transferred cuts from high-value programs to lower-value ones. Employee travel was limited. Maintenance deferred.
But in other cases, they found "cuts" that didn't cause much real-world pain. The Justice Department, for instance, prevented furloughs by "cutting" $300 million in money that had already legally expired, as well as $45 million meant to house detainees who didn't exist.
This is why the sky didn't fall. Sequestration was intended to show there was no longer any escape from austerity in Washington.
Amazingly, the Post still misses the point. Any manuevering by Congress and the agencies to re-allocate the monies earmarked for cuts shows that the budget slashing didn't hurt much at all, that the agencies could get along just fine with reduced funding.
Who cares how the savings were achieved? The fact that the cuts didn't affect agency operations gives the lie to the idea that every single dollar of federal spending is necessary and if you cut it, we have a catastrophe on our hands.
Another round of cuts is coming in October and we will no doubt hear the same wailing and gnsashing of teeth about the poor, the traveling public, and weather prediction. And once again, the agnencies will juggle their budgets and make it through just fine. If the government has to be forced at gunpoint to act responsibly, so be it.